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Blackthorn


by Jekka McVicar

In 15 years of exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show, I've never known such a late spring. Here on the farm the blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, is still flowering.


Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) in flowerIn 15 years of exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show, I've never known such a late spring. Here on the farm the blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, is still flowering. Interestingly, because it flowers early in spring, a cold spell of weather at this time of year is known by country folk as 'the winter of the blackthorn'. A heavy crop of sloes, the dark blue round fruit, is said to foretell a harsh winter. This year, it foretold a harsh spring. I'm still hoping for a warm spell within the next 15 days, before we start building our display.

My herb display at Chelsea this year will contain a very unique sundial, featuring a sculpture of a hare. I went with Joanna Migdal, the sundial creator, and Jeremy James, the hare sculptor, to the foundry where both elements are being cast. It was fascinating to see each stage of the process, from the creation of a rubber-like cast, through to the bronze, which is filled and tweaked, then coloured.

Jekka McVicar, foundry staff member, Jeremy James and Joanna Migdal with hare sculpture and sundial at foundryAfter the casting of the moon, which is to be the sundial, Joanna hand engraves the times onto the face. I find her attention to detail amazing. When she creates a sundial and places it in a garden, she mathematically calculates its position. She also designs special features for individual projects. For one couple she carved a heart on their sundial, so that on their wedding anniversary the sun shone through the heart at exactly midday. I find that so romantic.

Seeing the size and shape of the hare helped me finalise my design - it can be very difficult to visualize a three-dimensional object from a drawing. Once one sees it, it's much easier to work out which plants will complement it best. I had already anticipated placing the sundial and hare on a chamomile lawn; having seen them, I'm pleased to say this was the right choice.



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Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:31

As beautiful as the cast hare no doubt is, I'd be far more impressed if it were sculpted from herbs...